PILOT MOUNTAIN — By a 3-2 vote, the Surry County Board of Commissioners gave its approval for the county school system to buy six acres of land close to East Surry High School.
The Surry County Board of Education has held some closed sessions in recent months where it apparently discussed negotiations with a Pilot Mountain family to buy 6.4 acres on West Main Street. The tract is west of the school campus and directly across Old U.S. 52 from the Armfield Civic Center.
Speaking after the commissioners’ meeting, Dr. Travis Reeves, school superintendent, said that East Surry needs room to grow. The 17-acre campus houses all the classrooms, agriculture/ROTC building, gymnasium, football stadium and fieldhouse.
The football team doesn’t have a regulation-sized practice field, and the varsity and JV football teams are sharing the stadium with the boy’s soccer team, creating a log jam. Teams often use the outfield of the baseball field for practice.
The cafeteria isn’t big enough, and there’s practically no parking around the gym, Reeves explained.
According to the 2015-16 Facility Needs Survey, East Surry’s classrooms have a capacity of 807 students, but its kitchen space is small, its cafeteria isn’t suited for more than 687 students and its media center rated at no more than 652 students.
In the year that the study was done, the average daily attendance was 626. However, Reeves pointed out, if there is any district in the county poised to see growth, it is the area closest to Winston-Salem. Rural Hall and King continue to grow as the city pushes population outward, and East Surry likely will see an effect in the future — especially looking a few decades down the road.
There are multiple properties to the south and east that makes it impossible to expand in those directions. The school already went north, adding 10 acres across Old U.S. 52 for the tennis courts and baseball field.
“So that leaves west,” said Reeves.
Reeves told the commissioners that the school district could use its existing capital outlay funds for the land acquisition.
One of the commissioners mentioned a Harris property. According to the county tax map, Cleve and Deborah Harris own 6.4 acres at 896 W. Main St., the exact size that Reeves mentioned.
The tax value of the land is $116,480. With building and other values added on, the total assessed value is $475,430.
As the school board hasn’t finalized the deal with the owners, no price tag was given at the commissioners’ meeting.
Asked about the existing house on the land, Reeves said the home could be moved. Or, he added, the school could use most of the land and rent out the house, or the house could possibly be used as temporary housing for a teacher (such as a relocation incentive).
Commissioner Buck Golding pointed out that the land isn’t flat there and would need grading work to be viable, which makes him hesitant. Also, he doesn’t like that the deal doesn’t include the whole end of the road.
On the other side of the Cleve Harris land is a 4.54-acre property listed as C.G. Harris Family LLC. That land has an assessed value of $51,410. It goes all the way down to where Main Street ends at Old U.S. 52.
Commissioner Van Tucker said that whenever school issues come up, he generally is inclined to think that the district has a duly elected school board making decisions, so he should agree. He said that he assumed the school board had come to the conclusion that this is worthwhile.
”It was unanimous,” said Reeves.
The school system lacks other needed properties in the area, said Golding, so he would vote no.
The Harris property is not attached to the East Surry campus and would either require purchase of intervening homes or going around them to use the lot.
Tucker said that if the school district got right of first refusal on two other lots on paper, then he would be completely be in favor of it. Without those first rights, there is some uncertainty about whether the school might ever attain the separating properties, so he would agree with Golding.
After the discussion, Golding and Tucker voted no, while Commissioners Eddie Harris, Larry Phillips and Larry Johnson voted yes.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.